noun, often attributive
whis·​tle | \ ˈ(h)wi-səl How to pronounce whistle (audio) \

Definition of whistle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a small wind instrument in which sound is produced by the forcible passage of breath through a slit in a short tube a police whistle
b : a device through which air or steam is forced into a cavity or against a thin edge to produce a loud sound a factory whistle
2a : a shrill clear sound produced by forcing breath out or air in through the puckered lips
b : the sound produced by a whistle
c : a signal given by or as if by whistling
3 : a sound that resembles a whistle especially : a shrill clear note of or as if of a bird


whistled; whistling\ ˈ(h)wi-​s(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce whistling (audio) \

Definition of whistle (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to utter a shrill clear sound by blowing or drawing air through the puckered lips
b : to utter a shrill note or call resembling a whistle
c : to make a shrill clear sound especially by rapid movement the wind whistled
d : to blow or sound a whistle
2a : to give a signal or issue an order or summons by or as if by whistling
b : to make a demand without result he did a sloppy job, so he can whistle for his money

transitive verb

1a : to send, bring, signal, or call by or as if by whistling
b : to charge (someone, such as a basketball or hockey player) with an infraction
2 : to produce, utter, or express by whistling whistle a tune
whistle in the dark
: to keep up one's courage by or as if by whistling

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Other Words from whistle


whistleable \ ˈ(h)wi-​sə-​lə-​bəl How to pronounce whistleable (audio) \ adjective

Examples of whistle in a Sentence

Noun The policeman blew his whistle. We could hear the train's whistle. We could hear the low whistle of the wind through the trees. the whistle of the tea kettle Verb He was whistling as he walked down the street. He whistled for a cab. He whistled a happy tune. The teakettle started to whistle. A bullet whistled past him.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun His clients have included Chelsea Manning, the U.S. Army whistle-blower, and Gavin Grimm, the Virginia high-school student who sued his school district for the right to use the bathroom that corresponded to his gender identity. Masha Gessen, The New Yorker, "Chase Strangio’s Victories for Transgender Rights," 12 Oct. 2020 The Astros and Athletics have had their issues all season starting when Oakland pitcher Mike Fiers blew the whistle on the Astros' sign-stealing scheme. Matt Young, Houston Chronicle, "Astros' Martin Maldonado: 'They wanted us, they got us'," 9 Oct. 2020 Al Masah’s regulatory problems date back to 2015 after a whistle-blower complaint by a former employee at one of its businesses triggered the regulator’s investigation. Nicolas Parasie, Bloomberg.com, "Dubai Buyout Firm Al Masah Liquidated After Its Founder Banned," 5 Oct. 2020 In 2016, in a case with striking similarities to what transpired at Credit Suisse, the chief executive of Barclays tried to unmask a whistle-blower, at one point asking an internal security team to intervene. Kate Kelly, New York Times, "The Short Tenure and Abrupt Ouster of Banking’s Sole Black C.E.O.," 3 Oct. 2020 Three weeks after the Warsaw summit, news broke that a whistle-blower had raised the alarm over Trump’s pressure campaign in Ukraine, and the White House released the rough transcript of Trump’s phone call with Zelensky. Simon Shuster, ProPublica, "Rick Perry’s Ukrainian Dream," 23 Oct. 2019 Indeed, insurance attorneys appear to be the ones blowing the whistle. John Simerman, NOLA.com, "Murder of federal defendant in New Orleans shines light on high-stakes crash-staging scheme," 25 Sep. 2020 The whistle-blower complaint also mentioned coronavirus, and another complaint accuses the same subcontractor of taking insufficient precautions against the virus at a separate facility back in July. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, "The Troubling State of Medical Care in ICE Detention," 25 Sep. 2020 Which makes the whistle-blower complaint of former senior Department of Homeland Security intelligence official Brian Murphy, made public this week, all the more troubling. Lily Hay Newman, Wired, "Security News This Week: Hackers Target Porn Site Visitors Using Flash and Internet Explorer," 12 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Gordon Hayward has a sprawling $3 million mansion in Fishers that sits on nearly seven acres — with a pool, wine cellar and every fancy bell and whistle a house can boast. Dana Hunsinger Benbow, The Indianapolis Star, "Celtics' Gordon Hayward and his $3 million mansion — in Fishers," 21 Sep. 2020 There was some question as to whether Rodriguez's knee had touched the ground after receiving the handoff, but officials did not whistle the play dead then and spotted the ball just outside of the goal line after review. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky football loses touchdown on controversial replay review vs. Auburn," 26 Sep. 2020 As to the bills themselves, several spoke out in favor of establishing a statewide database tracking police complaints as well as offering police officers whistle blower protections under the law when reporting on police misconduct. Phil Davis, baltimoresun.com, "Maryland Senate committee holds hearing on reforming police while trying to define what that means," 22 Sep. 2020 Sometimes Rainbolt will whistle to get her attention. Matthew Vantryon, The Indianapolis Star, "'You learn to adjust': Navigating life with hearing loss, masks and volleyball," 1 Sep. 2020 After Burke passed the ball from the paint to Dorian-Finney Smith in the corner, Burke’s shoulder appeared to make contact with Lillard, forcing Portland’s star guard to fall to the court and officials to whistle the move. Callie Caplan, Dallas News, "Despite Mavs’ gripes, NBA upholds late foul calls on Trey Burke, Kristaps Porzingis in loss to Trail Blazers," 12 Aug. 2020 When Gandalf began to whistle across an open plain and a brilliant white stallion enters the frame, Tom could not contain himself. Thr Staff, The Hollywood Reporter, "Spike Lee Pays Tribute to Tom Pollock: "The Unsung Hero" of 'Do the Right Thing'," 4 Aug. 2020 Democrats are calling the officials whistle-blowers, suggesting they are covered by federal laws that prohibit reprisals against civil servants who give information to Congress. Charlie Savage, BostonGlobe.com, "Prosecutor in Stone case will testify about Barr’s intervention," 16 June 2020 Dallas coach Jason Garrett was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct late in the third quarter with his team trailing 31-17. Arnie Stapleton, chicagotribune.com, "Patrick Mahomes’ magic fizzles without mobility," 8 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'whistle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of whistle


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for whistle


Middle English, from Old English hwistle; akin to Old Norse hvīsla to whisper

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Time Traveler for whistle

Time Traveler

The first known use of whistle was before the 12th century

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Statistics for whistle

Last Updated

17 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Whistle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whistle. Accessed 20 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for whistle


How to pronounce whistle (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of whistle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a small device that makes a very high and loud sound when a person blows air through it
: a device through which air or steam is forced to produce a very high and loud sound
: a high and loud sound made by forcing air through your lips or teeth



English Language Learners Definition of whistle (Entry 2 of 2)

: to make a high sound by blowing air through your lips or teeth
: to produce a high and loud sound by forcing air or steam through a device
: to move, pass, or go very fast with a high sound


whis·​tle | \ ˈhwi-səl How to pronounce whistle (audio) , ˈwi- \

Kids Definition of whistle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a device by which a loud high-pitched sound is produced
2 : a high-pitched sound (as that made by forcing the breath through puckered lips)


whistled; whistling

Kids Definition of whistle (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to make a high-pitched sound by forcing the breath through the teeth or lips
2 : to move, pass, or go with a high-pitched sound The arrow whistled past.
3 : to produce a high-pitched sound by forcing air or steam through a device The kettle whistled.
4 : to express by whistling I whistled my surprise.

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